Dad, 23, dies of cardiac arrest after sending a card to his partner that arrived after death

Nichola Parris is on a mission to help prevent other families from losing their children to sudden cardiac death after her son Daniel collapsed and died at work in February last year

Dan collapsed after going to work
Dan collapsed after going to work

Nichola Parris blinked back tears as she read the Mother’s Day card her son Daniel had chosen for Holly, the mother of his own child. Because when the card arrived, Dan had died at the age of just 23.

To his friends and family, Dan, an electrician from Hastings, Kent, was the epitome of his health when he suddenly collapsed at work and died in February last year, a day before his daughter Olivia turned five months old.

His family could hardly believe it when they were told he had suffered a young sudden cardiac death, which claims around two people under the age of 35 every day in the UK.

Officer Nicky, 55, says: “Dan was a son any mother would be proud of. Six foot three inches tall, handsome with a beautiful smile, he was kind and caring. A real gentle giant.

“He went to the gym regularly and loved fishing and his PlayStation. We just didn’t see that coming.”

Leading up to his death, Dan told his mother that he felt slightly out of breath, especially at night.

“Asthma runs in our family, so I made him an appointment with his GP,” she recalls. “Due to the lockdown, Dan was given a phone appointment which was diagnosed with mild asthma and prescribed an inhaler. Looking back now, we think this may have been the first symptom of previously undiagnosed heart disease.”

Dan pictured as a boy with his mother Nicky

On the day he died, Dan went to work as usual. “In February 2021 we were in the middle of a lockdown, but the day started like any other day with Dan going to an apartment building to put on some lights,” says Nicky.

“Shortly after his arrival he collapsed. The homeowner called an ambulance and boldly performed CPR. Our eldest son, Matthew, is a police officer who works on site and when he heard there had been an incident involving someone with our last name he rushed there too.”

Unfortunately, despite the continued efforts of the homeowner and emergency services, Dan succumbed to cardiac arrest and died at the scene with his brother by his side.

“The day Dan died, our family’s world was torn apart,” says Nicky. “He seemed fit and healthy. It made no sense that we lost him so suddenly. We miss him very much.”

An autopsy and inquest took place after Dan’s death, with the coroner determining the cause of death as sudden arrhythmic death.

Dan with Holly and his parents Nicky and Tony

Experts have since suspected that Dan may have Brugada syndrome, a rare but serious condition that affects the way electrical signals travel through the heart. It can cause the heart to beat dangerously fast.

These abnormally fast heartbeats — known as arrhythmias — can sometimes be life-threatening.

The syndrome is usually caused by an inherited faulty gene and is more common in men. Many people with Brugada syndrome have no symptoms and are unaware they have it, while others experience fainting, seizures, occasional palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness.

Now Nicky, Dan’s father Tony, 56, who works as a greenskeeper, and other family members are being tested for the condition and have started getting involved with Cardiac Risk in the Young – CRY – a charity working to help end the sudden Preventing cardiac death in young people by e.g. raising awareness, funding demonstrations and research.

“Dan booked a holiday at Center Parcs for our family and Holly’s family for Olivia’s first birthday last September,” says Nicky. “When the date came, we still knew he would have wanted us all to be together on his little girl’s special day.

Dan with his daughter Olivia

The young father died of cardiac arrest

“As we discussed things together, we knew we wanted to do everything we could to prevent other families from going through this tragedy.”

After organizing a day of golf for charity and running the Hastings half marathon, family members have raised over £20,000 on Dan’s behalf.

dr Steven Cox, Chief Executive of CRY, says: “Heart disease can happen at any time and can occur while jogging through the park or while sleeping.

“Of the 12 young people who die from sudden cardiac death in the UK each week, 80 per cent are without prior symptoms. At CRY, we believe that all young people between the ages of 14 and 35 should have the opportunity to be screened for heart defects.”

Most abnormalities can be diagnosed by an EKG (electrocardiogram) test. An echocardiogram (ultrasound) may be done for clarity.

CRY offers ECG and echocardiogram screening to all youth between the ages of 14 and 35 (at ) and tests around 30,000 people every year.

“By speaking so publicly, the Parris family will help raise awareness among teenagers and young adults who are all too often unaware of sudden cardiac death in young people or the steps that can be taken to protect themselves aware,” says Dr. cox

To donate or for more information, go to

When to seek help

The charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) recommends that people under the age of 35 who are concerned or have any of the symptoms below contact their GP:

  • Chest pain, especially during exercise
  • loss of consciousness
  • breathlessness
  • dizziness
  • palpitations or a feeling of flutter
  • unexplained fainting spells, especially with physical exertion

If you pass out without warning (i.e. you collapse and fail to protect yourself by stretching out your hands), please contact CRY while you await your doctor’s appointment.

If someone has suffered a young sudden death, immediate family members are entitled to an NHS review.

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